The square of the old town of Prague

The square of the old town of Prague

The historic centre of Prague is something magnificent, with stunning buildings, an impressive castle and one of the most famous bridges in the world. Since 1992 it is part of the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO.

The centre of the Prague is crossed by the country’s longest river, the Vltava. It has 435 km, its source is found in the Bohemian region and the mouth is located a few kilometres north of the Czech capital. The river splits Prague into two banks.

On one side, Malá Strana, where the castle is found, and Hradcany. On the other bank, Staré Mesto (the old town – the medieval area), Nové Mesto (the new town), Josefov (Jewish quarter) and Vysehrad.

The Old Town

The square of the old town is the oldest and most important of the historic centre of Prague. It started, in the 10th century, as a trading post for the European trading routes. The bourgeoisie funded this area in order to compete with the Cathedral, located on the other side of the river.

It had bakers, potters, herbalists, gingerbread makers and several other artisans who would sell what they produced. Mushrooms, strawberries, cakes, fish and many other things were also sold.

A few centuries later, in addition to being an important economic centre, the square became part of people’s daily lives, due to the establishment of the Town Hall and the Church Of Our Lady before Týn. Tragic events also took place in this area, such as uprisings and public executions. I must emphasize the execution of 27 Czechs who rebelled against the Habsburg Dynasty. If you look at the ground of the square you will see 27 crosses, in a tribute to the 27 deceased.

The square has undergone several changes over the years, but it still is a beautiful and absolutely unmissable place when visiting Prague. This place has already witnessed several historic events.

Main Buildings

All buildings of the old town’s square are mesmerizing. Right below, I stress those that can be regarded as the most important.

Pick a nice café and sit outside. Thoroughly behold all the buildings in the square.

Old Town Hall

The Town Hall building was created in 1338 and its initial purpose was to be the headquarters of the town’s administration. Some years later, a tower was added to the south and then its façade welcomed the astronomical clock in 1410.

This watch is one of the most emblematic points of Prague. It is one of the world’s oldest and more elaborate. In addition to telling the time, it also shows the moon phases and movement of the stars… It’s a monument to sky observation.

If you are interested in knowing everything about the astronomical clock then read the piece I exclusively wrote about it.

Astronomical clock in the old Town Hall

Astronomical clock in the old Town Hall

Church of Our Lady before Týn

The Church of Our Lady before Týn is one of Prague’s most impressive gothic buildings. It is easily recognizable due to its black towers, which have different heights.

Its construction started in the 14th century, in a place where an old Romanesque building was located, which lodged traders from abroad. This temple is located next to the courtyard of Týn, hence its name. The courtyard of Týn was the place where taxes on the goods sold in Prague were charged.

For a long time, the Church of Our Lady before Týn was a place of Hussism worship, a reforming movement started by Jan Hus. This temple has been part of the Catholic Church since the 18th century.

The church was renewed several times over the years, but it keeps its grace, therefore the inside thoroughly justifies a visit. You can find the tomb of the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and the oldest organ in Prague (1673).

Church of Our Lady of Týn

Church of Our Lady of Týn

St. Nicholas Church

The St. Nicholas Church was the most prominent in the old town, before the edification of Church of Our Lady before Týn. It was taken by the Benedictine monks during the counter-reformation movement and was later rebuilt in Baroque style.

Inside of it lies a stunning décor and murals depicting the life of St. Nicholas and also of St. Benedict. Also impressive is the candelabra offered by Tsar Nicholas II.

We can attend classical music performances, in the evening, at St. Nicholas church.

Kinský Palace

Some extremely old buildings have already occupied the same spot where today we can find the Kinský Palace. The Rococo palace that we can currently see was built in the 18th century for Count Jan Arnos Golts. After he passed away, the palace was bought by the prominent Kinský family, who lived in it until 1949. After that it became a property of the National Gallery.

The Kinský Palace has already been a plateau for quite interesting things, among them:

  • The 1st woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was born there;
  • It was a school of German grammar, having in the famous Frank Kafka one of its students;
  • Klement Gottwald spoke from its balcony, something that led to a coup d’état.

The palace’s façade has white and pink hues, standing out a little bit from the other buildings in the square.

Kinsky Palace

Kinsky Palace

Stone Bell House

The Stone Bell House is a gorgeous example of gothic architecture in Prague, having been edified in the 13th century. It is believed that it was built as a palace for the royal family, for Elisabeth of Bohemia.

The name emerged a bit after, due to the existence of a stone bell, a replica of what we can now see in the corner of the house.

The house’s façade was changed several times, but an attempt to retrieve its original form was conducted in the 20th century. Fortunately that is what we can see today.

The interior of the house has been an exhibition gallery since 1988, as well as a bookstore and a café.

 Monument to Jan Hus

There’s a monument made of stone and bronze conducted by the Czech sculpture Ladislav Šaloun, in the old town square. It’s an interesting Art Noveau endeavour, and something unmissable in this place.

The figure towering the whole monument is the one of Jan Huss, a religious philosopher and reformer. He launched a movement that would later be known as Hussism, posing strong criticism against the Catholic Church. He was excommunicated and burned alive at the stake. The monument itself shows Huss in an upright position, glancing the Church of Our Lady before Týn. During his life, this church became Hussite.

Groups of people are also part of the statue, the fighters, and, on the opposite side, another group of humiliated individuals, depicting those who had to go into exile after the Battle of the White Mountain.

This work was completed in 1915.

Monument to Jan Hus

Monument to Jan Hus

Monument to Jan Hus

Monument to Jan Hus

Spain Square in Seville

Spain Square in Seville

The Spain Square in Seville is one of the most visited places in all Andalusia. It was even used as a setting for the 2nd episode of the renowned movie Star Wars.

I do love the city of Seville and every time I go there I end up walking around this square. So let’s know it a bit better.

Maria Luísa Park

The Spain Square is part of the Maria Luísa Park. This is the lung of the city of Seville, with its 40-hectare area. It was donated to the city in 1893 by Infanta Maria Luísa Fernanda de Borbón, Duchess of Montpellier.

Maria Luísa Park is indeed an outdoor museum, with imposing buildings, fountains and statues. This is where the city’s inhabitants can find some shelter to cope with the extreme summer temperatures of southern Spain.

The Ibero-American Exposition

The idea to hold an exhibition in Seville started to emerge in 1909, in order to promote the city’s tourism. This idea prompted the inauguration, in 1929, of the Ibero-American Exposition of Seville. Stunning buildings were built for each of the participant Ibero-American countries, as well as for the array of Spanish regions. These buildings hosted exhibitions associated with each country.

Peru’s building was the biggest to be built. As we speak, and like it happens with many others that were erected for the exposition, it can be as seen during a visit to the city.

Even though these buildings I have mentioned are deeply interesting to visit in person, the Spain Square was without a doubt the most impressive place built for the exposition of all.

The Square

The Spain Square is an immense building that displays its bricks, marble, ceramics and wrought iron, having a semicircular shape. It was built this way by the architect Aníbal González, depicting what would be an embrace to the former Spanish colonies. It has a diameter of 200 meters and occupies a surface of 50.000m2. This is the equivalent of 5 soccer fields! It’s monumental. It took 14 years to be built.

Several arcades are found throughout the whole building and it’s great to have the chance to check them with some proper time, looking at all their details spread along the structure and in the square as well. At both ends of the building there are 2 towers, each with a height of 80 meters. The main building is found at the centre, with a stunning balcony.

There is a 550-meter canal, crossed by 4 bridges, symbolising the number of kingdoms that came together to constitute the country. Castile, Aragon, Navarre and Leon. When there’s water in this canal we can rent a tiny boat and cruise through it.

Throughout the whole square, the building shows 48 benches, corresponding to the 48 Spanish provinces. In each bench there is a tile panel depicting historical events of each province, as well as the coat of arms of their capitals. Placed a bit above these panels, we see statues of 48 renowned Spanish citizens.

Currently, at Spain Square, we found several governmental buildings.

One of the 4 bridges

Barcelona Tile Panel

Edifício principal da praça

Channel detail

Learn more about what to see in the region of Andalusia.

The Jemaa el.Fna square, in Marrakesh

The Jemaa el.Fna square, in Marrakesh

The Jemaa el-Fna square is one of the most exciting places that I have ever visited.

It is the heart of Marrakesh’s medina and one of Africa’s most famous square. (In order to get know more about this city, I do recommend reading the previous article). The square was elected, by UNESCO, as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.

I have to start by saying that everything stated here falls very short if the reader’s intent is to have a clear grip on what this place is – the commercial and activity hub of Marrakesh. The Portuguese author Miguel Sousa Tavares affirms in the book “Sul” that “every single one of the city’s gates” should state “Marrakesh: live slow and leave fast”. “Because Marrakesh is an ambush”. (more…)

The Red Square of Moscow

The Red Square of Moscow

The Red Square of Moscow is a famous place, deemed as Russia’s central site (several of its main routes start right here) and separates the Royal city (known as the kremlin) and the historical neighborhood of Kitay-gorod, one of the oldest areas in Moscow.

Kremlin means fortress, or fort, and it was a military construction whose goal was to protect against invaders.

Some cities, including Moscow, were built around a kremlin. Currently, the official residence of the President of Russia is located in Moscow’s kremlin (which occupies about 30 hectares), in addition to several other palaces and churches. (more…)

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